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BT Sport might be winning this particular 4K/Ultra-HD battle, but will it win the long-term war? The launch on August 2nd of BT’s 4K channel was no ‘blue moon’ but the opening salvo in what might be a long-drawn out scrap for viewer loyalty.
Sky had its annual end-of-year results event on July 29th and CEO Jeremy Darroch made two separate sets of briefings to equity analysts. Ahead of the results media, pundits had been awash with rumours that Sky’s long-awaited 4K box would form some aspect of the results announcement. Or that a statement would emerge as to when Sky’s response to the threat from BT (and that of Amazon and Netflix) with their compelling 4K content would be made.
BT held a VIP reception at Wembley on August 2nd to view the 4K images, and the overwhelming consensus was that they were not just good, but most impressive. BT declined to say how many viewers had signed up for the service, but at this stage in the long game that’s immaterial. But as one newspaper reported, the 4K event was a “haymaker” of a punch in BT’s favour.
But back to the other UHD contender, Sky. As to the first of Darroch’s presentations (to London-based bankers) he said little about 4K other than to neatly side-step a question as to Sky’s plans for Ultra HD by suggesting- somewhat foolishly – that any content looked terrific when viewed on a giant screen from just a few feet in a store.
A couple of hours later while talking to US-based analysts, he was – sort of – more specific, saying Sky would be “delivering brilliant innovation to make the viewing experience even better”. Now this is perhaps as vague a statement as it was possible to make, and he wasn’t pressed on whether this means better programming, or better images.
Of course, as we have stated frequently, Sky will tell us their plans when they are good and ready to tell us and not a moment prior.
But worryingly, at least for those loyal Sky subscribers keen to some 4K action, a Sky subscriber, on its own ‘Sky Community’ viewer forum on July 29th reported that he had been told officially that Sky “would not have a UHD box this year”.
Darroch does have other things on his mind, not least laying off some 400 staff in and around its Isleworth HQ, and counting the £13 million worth of shares and options he cashed in last week.
All of which suggests that viewers need to be patient a little while longer!